Zia Cooke is having her first breakout season for USC WBB

South Carolina's Zia Cooke (1) and the Gamecocks celebrate with a three-pointer during the first half of the game against Missouri at Colonial Live Arena on Sunday, December 15, 2023.

South Carolina’s Zia Cooke (1) and the Gamecocks have fun with a three-pointer through the first half of the sport towards Missouri at Colonial Stay Enviornment on Sunday, December 15, 2023.

tglantz@thestate.com

South Carolina guard Zia Cook dinner is within the midst of the most effective season of her four-year profession — and coach Don Staley wonders what took her so lengthy to do it.

Staley knew 4th within the Class of 2019 recruit She might play, however Cooke confirmed a unique degree of excellence in her first season.

“It took me 4 years to get good photos,” Staley instructed Cooke on Sunday.

Cook dinner replied, “Yeah, it was simply God’s timing.”

A product of Toledo, Ohio, Cooke averages profession highs in factors, assists, area purpose proportion, free throw proportion and makes 3 factors per sport. She additionally had the bottom turnover per sport of her profession, regardless of having extra minutes on base.

She led South Carolina in scoring in 10 of her first 20 video games, together with her personal 24 factors within the staff’s 92-46 Sunday win over Arkansas. Sunday marked the fourth time she’s scored 20 or extra factors in a single sport this season.

“I feel I have been in a terrific place mentally for the reason that begin of the season,” Cook dinner stated. “I used to be having enjoyable on the market. I simply do my greatest to play that method each time I step on the ground.”

Cooke performs with confidence, taking the identical photographs she missed in earlier components of the video games, driving to the rim to earn free throw makes an attempt and celebrating after a made basket with totally different dances or poses.

Missed photographs do not deter Cook dinner as they’ve previously. In consequence, they made it extra environment friendly.

“Final yr, they in all probability would have made her take 4 or 5 dangerous photographs within the second half,” Staley stated. “She did not try this. She simply relied on her means to create a behavior of taking good photographs and taking pictures photographs.”

Her manufacturing this season is the excessive level of her rookie marketing campaign, which featured profession lows in factors and area objectives, free throws and a 3-point proportion.

All through her profession, Staley Cook dinner has inspired staying put when the photographs aren’t going to land. Staley tells her that she shouldn’t be “one-dimensional” as a participant and that scoring shouldn’t be the one approach to affect the sport.

“Pre-season, I’m identical to, ‘Dia, you simply need to Staley stated. “Do not consider something. Simply do. Do not get caught up within the missed shot.”

Attend on the proper time

Cooke’s manufacturing provides the Gamecocks (20-0, 8-0 SEC) a brand new dimension, particularly if you’ve put in an efficient taking pictures night time.

When the Boston Excessive was going through the Quad towards Georgia, Made a efficiency of 31 factors That lifted USC to win. Cook dinner’s second half offense towards South Dakota State helped South Carolina put the sport away within the fourth quarter.

Within the second sport of the season towards Maryland, she scored 10 of her 18 factors within the Jimmycocks’ explosive third quarter to depart a floor run for the staff. She additionally made her first of three video games with a minimum of 4 three-pointers this season throughout that outing.

“Zia has simply grown in such a tremendous method,” stated Boston. “I feel she was simply getting higher. She’s placing in all of the work after rehearsal. She’s getting shot after shot. And it nonetheless pays off.”

Cooke is now a veteran of the staff, and he has loads of expertise to talk of.

I watched one season finish prematurely resulting from COVID-19, and one other finish with a heartbreaking loss within the Remaining 4 earlier than serving to USC to its nationwide championship.

This was just like how she carried out on the sphere. It took Cook dinner time to completely determine issues out, however the extra she did, the extra harmful the Gamecocks turned.

“It is mentally more durable,” Staley stated. “She’s stronger psychologically. All collectively. We have been hoping to satisfy up just a little sooner. However her time is her time. It could not have occurred at a greater time.”

Zia Cooke’s profession yr

Stats for 2022-23 as of Monday

  • Factors per sport: 15.8 (up from 10.7 in 2021-22)
  • Assists per sport: 2.1 (from 1.7)
  • Subject purpose proportion: 43% (from 34%)
  • Free throw proportion: 80.5% (over 70.5%)
  • 3 factors per sport: 2.0 (up from 1.3)
  • Turnover per sport: 1.4 (down from 2.0)

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Jeremiah Holloway covers South Carolina girls’s basketball and soccer for the state. A graduate of the College of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he’s from Greensboro, NC and is a basketball fan. Holloway joined the state in August 2022.

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